Want to write better? There are a couple of simple things you can do to improve your writing right away. You don’t need a writing coach like me and you don’t need to take a class or read a book. Here’s all you have to do.
Read It Aloud
This is probably the easiest thing you can do and the one which will have the most dramatic effect on the quality of your writing. As the famous writing coach, William Zinsser, said, “Writing is for the ear.”
Just print out a copy of your blog post or that book chapter and read it aloud. You don’t even need anyone to listen to it except you.
You’ll discover that your voice will trip over things that your eyes have missed. When it does, either mark the manuscript so you can fix it later or sit down at your word processor and fix it right away.
When you’ve read through the draft once, print it out and read through it again. Do this until your tongue quits tripping over stuff. How many times will that be? I don’t have any scientific studies of that but I know that I read and correct my blog posts three or four times.
Let It Rest
I’ve never worked with anyone who could judge his or her writing immediately after getting it down. If you wait a while, though, you’ll see your writing with clear eyes.
The longer you wait, the clearer your vision will be. Some famous writers, like Stephen King, put a manuscript away for more than a month before they look at it again. When they go back to their writing, it’s like they’re reading things that someone else wrote. They can edit and rewrite as vigorously as necessary.
Here’s the hard part. If you do this for your regular writing, like a blog post, you’re going to have to change your work flow. Since that means changing a habit, it won’t be easy. The benefits are worth it.
A couple of years ago, I worked with a blogger to develop a new habit that would let his posts rest for three or four days before he looked at them again. The result was what he called “an astounding improvement in the quality of my posts.”
Want to write better? Read your drafts aloud and let them rest before you revise them.
On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath